Friday, January 28, 2011

Fresh food is never bad.

I can only speak from my personal experiences. Occasionally, I think to myself, "Self- you seem to be progressing as a person, becoming truly a critical thinker." Then some statement, or some new bit of knowledge sends me back to thinking that living long enough to get a letter from King William, will not be long enough to right all my misconceptions.

This build up is all for a short rant about 'bad foods'. A lovely, smart, Derby girl once said to me 'How can a food be bad, exactly?'. I realized that I still get griped in a loop of thinking that I can't escape when in a grocery store. "Am I allowed to eat this?", "Is this label truthful?".
I have come to learn that some foods are better than other foods.
I have come to understand I much rather shop at an open air market, especially when the sellers are all from within our small state.
I have come to know that although I hate large grocery stores, trying to only shop at the local gas station is not the answer.

I once had a roommate, she was French, she was stunningly beautiful, and she ate whatever she wanted, in moderation.
She had no fear of eggs, butter, cream, wine or bread.

Sometimes, but not very often, Zok is too tired to cook. (I know, crazy).
The answer is making something easy like this.

Fresh pumpkin ravioli, bought from our local farmers market.

Butter 30g
Butter 30 g
Vegetable stock 1 cup
Cream 1 cup
Fresh grated Parmesan
Several fresh sage leaves

Take your fresh sage leaves, clean and then trim the stalks
Take 30 g of butter melt in small frying pan, flash fry the sage leaves and put aside.
Take the butter from the sage frying, and add the other 30 grams
Melt, add Cream, Vegetable stock (vegetta, or cubed diluted in boiled water), and heat to condense. Add the cheese at the last minute.

Cook your raviolis (Zok insisted on lots of water with a bit of oil in there, I disagree and use less water with salt) al dente.

Mix raviolis and sauce together, add the sage on top, salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Whatever Lola wants...Lola gets..."

Zok had a birthday.
Perhaps the the second in fifteen years that he wasn't working.
We decided to go out to the 'Farm Bar'.
Because I like beer, and I especially like 'real ale' a type of beer that isn't as preserved, that is less carbonated and served with a hand pump not a 'tap'.
I heard about a small brewery, here on the prison island, that made their beer entirely from ingredients they grew themselves on their farm.
Finally (over a year later) I found their website, which touted a 'farm bar', where people could come and sample the beers and ciders (fruit from a neighboring orchard), use their BBQ, and even buy 'hops fed' beef.

*This year they made a 'dark ale' that has an apple-cider base and is fermented in the same process champagne is fermented.
That beer was EXCELLENT.
Please look here:

I envisioned a sort of cowboy movie, bell-ringing, farm court-yard set up even while all the time knowing in reality I would be drinking out of a tin shed.
Still, we invited a couple of people, and packed up what we believed to be the 'least' one might take to a BBQ.
Marinades, Tofu to grill, Corn, marinated sliced potatoes, beans from the garden, wine (just in case) and marble-bundt cake.
This in fact turned out to be a point of interest to all other patrons, and a chore for the cook (Zok) who felt the BBQ set up was "very basic" a wood fired, tin drum with a slated grill (large gaps).
All in still, the event was novel, the evening temperate, the dark ale, excellent, and company good. I drove so Zok could drink his wine, and therefore bought a six-pack to take home. The prices at the farm bar and for both meat and beer to take-away were downright inexpensive.

I, of course, was let down that baby cows were not brought out to be petted, and known by name so that the next time people could buy their dinner meat by name...
However, I seemed to be the only one who thought that marketing idea was plausible.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Marble Bundt Cake

Zok has been intrigued with 'Bundt' cake ever since he saw one in 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'.
This year when we were in our nearest IKEA store, (only about 600 kilometers away) we found a spring form bundt cake pan- of course being of Swedish design, it is a nice color, and does normal round cake as well, and has the bonus of hearts imprinted on the bottom.

This cake is both rich and light at the same time. Because the chocolate is really rich, the cake is moist and tasty, without needing any icing.
The original recipe calls for a glaze made from white chocolate and violet liqueur, which could be nice, but the chances of finding violet liqueur here are very, very slight.

Zok modified a recipe and came up with this:

75 grams of dark chocolate (70%)
50 grams of white chocolate
115 g softened butter (room temp)
2 eggs
4 oz of whole milk
150 g caster sugar
200 g of self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 170 c (fan forced)
Grease your ring mold
Grate each chocolate into separate bowls (tin preferred)
Dark Chocolate finely grated
White Chocolate ribbon grated
Cream butter and sugar until white and fluffy then add eggs one at a time until well mixed
Add baking powder to flour then
sift flour into egg/butter/sugar mixture and mix well
Add 100 mls of whole milk to mixture mix well

Set the dark chocolate bowl onto a larger bowl of hot water (water bath)

Take out about one half of the batter from your mixing bowl-
Add melted dark chocolate to the mixture on the mixing stand and mix well
Add the grated (unmelted) white chocolate to the other half of the cake batter and mix well (this mixing is done by hand)

Now you have the two completed halves of your marble cake.

Zok takes dollops of each and adds them alternately to the greased cake pan.
Smooth the top and bake for about 20-30 minutes (I would say 20 and Zok would say 30 and we usually fight it out so that the cake is out by about 25 minutes)

(yes that is correct- I ate my piece so fast I almost forgot to get a photo)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mascarpone Pie

Zok really views recipes as guidelines. He almost always remembers the dish from memory after the second time he makes the dish.
This pie came originally from a 'Strawberry and mascarpone tart' recipe.
The pie has gone through some different incarnations. We used whiskey the first time because we didn't have Drambuie, and although the whiskey worked, the Drambuie does enhance the flavors of the mascarpone and strawberries better than the whiskey did. However, if you found this dish too sweet, whiskey is an option.
Also the original recipe calls for a flour pie crust, Zok swears the first two had that crust, but I've no memory of those- and I actually can't imagine this pie without the most recent crust made of grated graham crackers. Of course graham crackers are hard to find in Australia so we made the crust once from what they call 'digestive' biscuits here. That crust is better than the flour crust but not nearly as good as the crust made from graham crackers.

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 tbl. soft brown sugar
50 ml (1 3/4 fl. oz) Drambuie
300 ml (10 1/2 fl oz) whipping cream
250 g (9 oz) mascarpone cheese
2 tsp finely grated orange zest

Mix together the strawberries, vanilla, Drambuie and 1 tbl of the sugar in a bowl, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Mix the mascarpone, cream, orange zest and remaining sugar, this can also be refrigerated but as the cream/cheese are already chilled this isn't as important.

Zok has perfected the crust, mostly by now owning a spring form cake pan and using the baking beads.
Here is the recipe for the last (best) crust.

175 - 200 grams of Graham Cracker (one and one half packets of USA crackers)
20 cm. spring form was used.
110 grams of unsalted melted butter

Take the crackers and finely grate them.
Melt butter.
In a bowl combine grated crackers and butter-
Spoon out mixture into spring form, first the bottom about .5 cm max. and then the sides about the same-or basically using up the mixture
*blind bake crust:
Take baking paper and line on top of cracker mixture and secure the paper down with baking beads (or you can use rice)
Bake ten minutes at 120 celcius
Take out and cool to room temperature.
Spoon in cold cheese mixture
Top with strawberries
(Save the excess liquid to drizzle on top of each piece of pie as desired)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ode to the Noodle Ranch

Once upon another life time, I chose to eat many a meal at a place called 'The Noodle Ranch' located in a neighborhood called 'Belltown' in Seattle, Washington. This was a life when I rarely cooked anything more complicated than fancy beer nuts (chili-carmelized blanched almonds for poker nights). I lived in a land of late night dining, take away, and (!) delivery foods.

I never thought of myself as a curry eater. But my friend Monte convinced me to try this 'light' variety, the green curry.
Silken tofu cubes, broccoli, and potatoes, in spices and green curry with a side of sticky white rice.
What is not to love?
But this was a love lost when I moved away from the area.
Until Zok decided he could figure it out- and he did.
Here you go: Curry for 2 plus left overs, as created by Zok.

1 medium brown onion, diced.
1 clove of garlic finely diced.
3-4 medium potatoes- such as a Kennebec or the yellow skinned American potato- peeled and cut into small cubes
A fair sized Broccoli cut into bite sized pieces
Silken tofu cut into bite sized cubes
16 oz of Coconut Cream
32 oz of vegetable stock (made from the cube and water)
1 tsp peanut oil
Fresh kaffir lime leaves about 4 thinly sliced, leaf only not center stem/vein
(if you live nearby we have a kaffir lime tree so if you need leaves just ask)
Zest of half of one lime
Juice from the half-lime
2 tbls palm sugar
Clove of garlic (diced)
One small red chili no seeds
5 tbls of fish sauce
2 tbl of green curry paste
* you can leave out the chilli and/or you can add in mushrooms
Rice for 2 people

Peel, cut potatoes and steam until tender but not fully cooked, put aside.

*Make a sauce to set aside by taking the sliced kaffir leaves, lime juice, lime zest, chopped clove of garlic, fish sauce and grated palm sugar and chilli if desired, mix to dissolve sugar

Take the teaspoon of peanut oil, and heat in wok until slightly smoking, then add onion, and one clove of garlic- stir ingredients to coat then add in the 2 tbl. of green curry paste and sauté all for a couple of minutes mixing well.

Add potato to wok, mix well.
Add in vegetable stock, stir well
Add in coconut cream, stir well
Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes
Add broccoli and tofu and mushrooms (if desired)
Simmer all for a few minutes
Add Sauce
Lightly stir (lightly to avoid breaking up the tofu cubes)
Simmer until condensed about 15 to 30 minutes-
+This is a good time while this simmers to turn on your rice cooker.
++I don't know the substitution for fish sauce- but of course this is not strictly vegetarian to use and will need to be substituted if you are cooking for a strict vegetarian, this is okay if they are only an aquatarian.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

' will be so hot I will become a cooking pot...'

Udon and Soba noodle soups respectively are simple to make.
They are so simple that a person hardly needs a recipe.
However, if you do not cook often, a recipe is a nice guideline.
Soup is definitely easy to make, and easy to store and eat as left overs.

Zoks' udon soup is a lucky accident- that came from our wish to make Kitsune Udon, which we ate every day in Kyoto, Japan. Kitsune is the Japanese for 'fox'. I know this from a Akira Kurasawa film.
Zok and I picked boxes at random at various Asian stores until we found a combination we liked. (See the two boxes pictured).
Zok is quite picky about his udon noodles, and the ones he likes, we can't find here on the island so he stocks up while in Melbourne or Sydney.
The trick to the tofu is to cook it in butter, actual real butter until crispy.
The noodles are cooked and set aside.
One packet of each soup stock, with about 3 cups of water to simmer, add garlic, spring onion, and if you are Zok red chillies.
Scoop noodles into each bowl, add in tofu cut to strips, and ladle in broth.
We are still working on how to make Kitsune Udon.

Our spicy soba soup was taken from this recipe:

Cook the soba noodles and set them aside.
1 litre of water simmered up with a vegetable cube (stock cube)
3 spring onions,into 5 cm length and then sliced in halve.
1 carrot sliced into match sticks
Shitake mushrooms (fresh) lengthwise into strips
1 clove of Garlic sliced
1 inch sliced ginger (into round discs)
One red chili without seeds sliced

Again, put noodles into a bowl and ladle in broth as desired.
I like lots of ginger, Zok likes to add in extra spice, such as wasabi stems.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Twice Baked Pizza

The day our local pizza delivery shop closed was a sad, sad, day for me.
The borough of Kingston is not exactly teeming with 'takeaway' food options. Zok rose to the challenge and started making pizza from scratch. With a bit of help from our friend Liz.

Getting the yeast to activate, and the temperature correct for a good, fluffy, dough is the only tricky part of this meal.
Zok says that the he prefers the 'instant, dried' yeast, which we keep in our refrigerator. He uses our electric kettle to boil water, and uses cold tap water in a measuring cup to bring the water up to 'temperate', warm not hot.
The yeast when activating is visible to the eye.

Zok makes pizza sauce whenever tomatoes are ripe in the garden, or on sale.
We keep those in the freezer.
Our secret is that we twice bake our crust- the first time we lightly brush oil on the pizza base, and sprinkle the top with garlic salt and herbs.
After they fluff up and toast up in the oven we add the tomato sauce and whatever toppings we want.
Zok used his pizza to test out four salamis from our new favorite Italian Deli.
I pretty much stick to pineapple with mozzarella and provolone cheeses.

I suggest buying pizza tins at a catering store. I have always found bargains and hard to find items (remember when muddler was a foreign word?) at catering stores, and there always seems to be one, large city or small.
The tins have to be treated with oil, and it is a good habit to always put a small amount of oil on them before storing them away.

I suppose pizza is a simple dish, and often overlooked in favor of ordering this item delivered. But this is a good meal to make with kids, or for easy entertaining.

2 thick crust pizzas- 10 inch pizza tins (because everyone like cold pizza the day after)

3.5 cups of plain flour (not self rising)
Tsp. salt
Tbl. caster sugar
8 grams of dry yeast to one cup of warm water
Mix all in your mixer or by hand until light and fluffy
(Zok says to do this until you think you are done then mix another 3 minutes)
Add more warm water or flour as required
Put the ball of dough in a lightly oiled large bowl, roll the dough around to lightly coat the dough this ensures that the dough doesn't dry out while rising
cover with a towel - about 90 minutes.

Sauce (for about 8 pizzas)
Render down about 2 kilos (4.5 lb) of tomatoes
Zok flash boils the tomatoes, then removes the skins
Then cook all of them up until well rendered, then he uses a sieve to remove the seeds
Then re-cooks the tomatoes almost to a paste
Add herbs (to taste) We use what we have in hand from garden, rosemary, parsley, oregano, basil, garlic all finely chopped, cook these all up a bit more.
The sauce keeps for ages (2-3 months). We label each batch to keep them straight.

Monday, January 3, 2011

"I get too hungry for dinner at eight..."

I am going to post a month of recipes or what I like to think of as 'dinner'.
I will try to talk the chef into certain favorite recipes I want to share.
Feel free to ask questions, or request a favorite dish.

Mee Goreng
*Zok believes that only fresh Hokkien Noodles are acceptable when making this simple dish.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
1 large onion (brown is best)
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 red chillies (or one large depending on how your garden grew)
seeded, and finely chopped (the seeds can be added back in if you desire a high 'hot spicy' rating on your food).
2 cm (3/4 in) piece of fresh ginger (Zok says you can switch this out for fresh galangal)
2 tablespoons oil (one when tossing the noodles, one when cooking up the rest of the ingredients in the wok)
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
Deep fry tofu squares (.5 lb of firm tofu), cut in half to make triangles
3 tablespoons each of kecap manis, soy sauce, tomato sauce (this is increased due to the fact that we are cooking with tofu when normally this dish would have raw prawn meat (a pound).
Optionally a person could also add 8 oz. of rump steak finely sliced. The meat (ahh poor fishes what did they ever do to you?) would be added in place of when the tofu is added.

Combine the chopped onion, garlic, chillies and ginger (or galangal) in a small food processor or mortar and pestle. Set aside.
Heat 1 tbl. spoon oil (Zok uses peanut oil) in wok (large is best); stir fry the noodles until plump and warmed through (Zok makes them a wee bit burnt on some of the noodles, they are the tastiest ones), Place noodles in covered serving bowl to keep warm.

Add another teaspoon of oil to wok and stir fry the paste until golden, add your carrots, stir-fry quickly 2 minutes, add in tofu, 2 minutes (or until tofu, carrots and paste are nice and mixed)-
Add in the kecap manis, soy, and tomato sauces - wait until this all reduces, as you work your wok technique prowess.

We divide the noodles as desired, and then dish out the amount of tasty goodness on top of these noodles.
Zok adds spring onion as a garnish, Colleen does not.

*kecap manis can be found in most asian grocers, and is a sort of sweet, thick soy sauce
** this dish goes nicely with Sapporo Beer
***Zok mentioned that he actually uses a bit more tofu because somebody, steals pieces when somebody is too hungry to wait for the food to cook.